Contributed by Naoko’s Kitchen
What is Osechi Ryori?
New Year’s is a particularly important holiday in Japanese culture and traditions. The way it is celebrated by each family is an expression of their desires and hopes for the year to come. Osechi Ryori is small dishes that are eaten during the first three days of January that are symbolic for these New Year wishes and meant to usher in good health and prosperity. An important part of Japanese food culture, the preparation of these osechi ryori dishes also needs to be very well thought out. So we have put together as easy to follow recipe and video here that puts three authentic Japanese recipes for osechi ryori right in the palm of your hand.
Before you get started whipping them up in your own home, read a little about the history and significance of each dish. Also check out our tips for preparing and plating them in a way that will ensure a great year to come for you and your loved ones!
What is Kohaku Namasu?
Kohaku-Namasu is made of daikon radish and carrot cut into thin strips and pickled in sweetened vinegar. It is prepared in such a way that it resembles a mizuhiki, a cord made of red and white rice paper that is used as a decoration for many special occasions in Japan. The combination of red and white is the color for celebration and symbolizes happiness. Prepare some for you and your family and look forward to a new year with more family cohesion and love.
What is Kuro Mame?
Kuro Mame is black soybeans simmered with sugar and soy sauce. Aside from being full of nutrients, this dish also symbolizes good health, as “mame” which means bean, sounds like another word that means hard work and good health in the Japanese language. This is a very simple dish to make, but it represents many hopes and wishes for years ahead and so has become an important part of the New Year menu and celebration. If you have a family or friend who is looking to advance their career in the year to come, then Kuro Mame is a must-make dish this New Year’s wherever you are!
What is Osechi Shrimp?
Shrimp is one of the very important and most well-known dishes in Osechi Ryori. In this recipe, we prepare it simply simmered with soy sauce, sake and honey. Curled prawn’s shape looks like that of an older person, so this dish represents a wish for longevity. Also, the color change to red when you cook shrimp, which is very important. In Japanese culture and traditions, people believe that the red color wards against evil spirits. To live to a ripe old age and chase away any bad vibes this year, don’t forget to add osechi shrimp to your New Year’s menu!
Our recipe calls for using dashi stock, which adds a considerable amount of umami flavor to this dish and makes it an authentic Japanese original. Shrimp are often commonly used for other osechi recipes as well, including shrimp dumplings and omelets wish mashed shrimp. In fact, if there is one food that really symbolizes New Year for the Japanese, it is shrimp, so don’t scrimp on them!
More About Osechi Ryori
Osechi ryori foods are often kept and served in little boxes very similar to the bento box. Called jubako, these boxes can also be stacked up upon each other both before and after they are used. Osechi ryori foods are also often eaten with special chopsticks called iwaibashi. These celebratory chopsticks are made out of unvarnished willow tree wood and are presented in a special ornate paper holder. Unlike regular chopsticks, which only taper at one end, both ends of the iwaibashi chopsticks are tapered. This symbolizes that the dish will be shared with the gods, an auspicious way to start any new year.
The way food is presented in terms of plating and decoration is always important in Japanese food culture, but on New Year’s it becomes even more essential. Because each food item signifies a particular portentous desire for the upcoming year, arranging the plate is a symbolic act that is actually seen as part of the preparation for life. In many households it is considered bad luck to leave any osechi ryori uneaten. So come with a full appetite and be prepared to chow down!
Tips for plate presentation for Osechi-ryori
#1. Limit portion sizes
Only fill about two-thirds of each plate with food. The rest of the plate should be left empty. This is because if the plate is loaded with food, the food itself won’t look as visually pleasing. Dividing each food into a small bowl or ramekin looks neater. Start plating each food in the center of the dish and work outward from there. By doing so, you can make sure that the food is centered in the middle of the plate.
#2. Layer foods to add height
Adding height to a dish can take it from ordinary to stunning and more professional. Start placing the firm food first and then softer foods on top will make your layering easier.
#3. Bring out vegetables’ bright color
Make your Osechi-ryori appetizing by adding various vivid colors on the plate. Avoid overcooking of vegetables and combine different colors together for contrast and aesthetic pleasure.
Meet Naoko’s Kitchen
Naoko’s Kitchen is brought to you by Japanese cook and Culinary Artist Naoko Kashiwagi who is living in the UK. Naoko has been sharing her authentic taste, knowledge, and skills of Japanese food by hosting pop-ups and Japanese cooking classes in Cornwall, UK. More than a thousand foodies from all over the world have participated in her informative and hands-on classes. They all enjoyed the entertainment of her exquisite dishes!
Naoko’s Kitchen is the first authentic Japanese pop-ups in Cornwall. This style allows her to collaborate with a lot of local businesses aiming at supporting each other as well. Her mission is simple. To entertain the customers with authentic Japanese flavors by adding subtle European twists to create innovative dishes.
Its concept promises to create family favorites using the freshest local seafood and seasonal ingredients with Naoko’s imagination and creativity. She creates a dish mixing authenticity with innovation for your taste buds and eyes.
- ¼ Daikon Radish (or 1 Turnip)
- 1 Carrot
- 1 Tbsp Sea Salt
- 2 Tbsp Golden Caster Sugar
- 3 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Sesame Seeds toasted
- Peel the daikon radish and carrot using a peeler.
- Julienne and place in a bowl.
- Sprinkle sea salt and mix well. Set it aside for about 30 minutes to let the moisture out from the vegetables.
- Meanwhile mix the sugar and white wine vinegar in a small bowl well.
Season the vegetable
Squeeze the vegetable well to remove any remaining moisture.
- Mix with the marinade and sprinkle sesame seeds.
- You can keep this for 1 week in the fridge.
Kuro Mame (Black Beans)
- ½ can Black Beans
- 1 cup Brown Sugar
- 3 Tbspbsp Soy Sauce
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
Cook black beans
- Place the black beans in a small pot and completely soak the beans with water.
- Add brown sugar, soy sauce, sea salt and baking soda to the pot.
- Bring to boil on high heat.
- Reduce the heat to medium heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the beans are tender. If the water evaporates before the beans are cooked, add a bit of water.
- Once you make this, you can keep this for one week in a fridge.
Clean the prawns
- Devein the shrimp using a shrimp deveiner or, a toothpick.
- Trim the pointy parts of the tail and the whiskers.
- Mix soy sauce, sake, sea salt, honey and dashi stock in a sauce pan and bring to boil.
- Add the shrimps and cook using chopsticks or tong. Gently flip them over so both sides are soaked in the broth.
- Simmer for 5 minutes until shrimps are done.
- Remove from the heat and set it aside until the shrimps are cooled down.
- Spread a saran wrap over a container and place the shrimps and broth inside.
- Wrap it tightly so the broth won’t leak.
- Keep it in a fridge until ready to serve. You can keep them in the fridge for 3 days.